Just this weekend, Monterey, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz,
El Dorado and Amador County wineries and tasting rooms
flung open their doors to tasters!
Yes, exhale with joy!
Winemakers and their staff are as eager to see you as you are to see them.
After almost four months of sheltering in place, California is starting to open up wineries.
Before you plan your customary day of tasting, here are a few tips on what’s happening in the tasting room scene:
When you arrive for your tasting appointment:
Your favorite wineries are anxious to see their tasting fans again!
Contact them if you have any questions about their current—and evolving—tasting practices.
And bringing a note of thanks, a big air hug, or a treat to your best loved winery is always in style.
A toast to the new ways of sipping!
Gain more from your next tasting with Nose & Palate wine traits...
Wine is meant to be shared.
It's the liquid for celebrations, community, and for gathering with friends and family.
I want to acknowledge that all of this has come to a screeching halt.
We all are, to some degree, dealing with Covid-19.
Some are instantly without work. Others are on the front line.
And hopefully, all are making efforts to shelter in place for everyone's health and safety.
It's difficult to be separated from our loved ones and experience this much change at once.
For a piece of bright news, Bay Area wines are, thankfully, still available. At this time, wineries are not allowed to be open to the public for purchases in the tasting room or wine tasting on site.
But winemakers are being creative and resourceful in an effort to keep their businesses--
and to keep sharing their wines with tasters.
If you're still in a place to purchase wine and enjoy it, now is the time.
For a list of wineries and their current offerings and shipping, visit the following links.
The specials will likely vary and change as needed.
Wineries of Santa Clara Valley
The site currently lists their winery options for delivery, curbside, shipping, and specials.
Visit Santa Clara Wines.
Monterey County Vintners & Growers
Find wineries in Carmel, Soledad, and Monterey. Contact the winery directly for current offerings.
Visit Monterey County Wines.
Santa Cruz Mountains Winegrower Assoc.
Find a listing of pick-up, delivery, and discount options by winery.
Visit Santa Cruz Mountain Wines.
Health to you and yours in this time, and a few words of comfort...
God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1
A Prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the Lord.
'Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you!' Psalms 102:1
Blessings to you,
Travel from the comfort of you home and snag a few ideas from this Home-Tasting of 3 Reds...
Closures. I don't mean the relationship kind.
But the kind that keep the desirable in and the unwanted out in wine.
Closures can seem like such a random idea, but we use closures daily in a host of ways.
Opening and shutting the fridge, the jam jar, a car door, or entering/exiting our places of work.
Wine closures may be low on the list of dinner topics, but key when opening a bottle of wine at the end of the day or when hosting friends. If a wine is not closed or sealed right, it can spoil. After growing the grapes, making the wines, and distributing it to customers, if too much or too little oxygen is allowed in the stored wine, it can make or break what you drink in your glass!
Closures come in a variety of styles: natural cork, compressed cork, synthetic (a.k.a.) plastic cork, and twist tops. Newer to the scene are Plant Based Closures.
Made with sugar cane based polymers, these corks are "easy on the environment, recyclable, and provide a reduced carbon footprint." Best of all, they offer a more predictable closure, giving winemakers the controls to allow more or less oxygen absorption into their bottled wines. This makes for more stable and constant wines, so you can be more confident of your purchase.
A taste is worth a thousand words. Ergo, the Cabernet Experimental Palate Test.
Don J. Huffman, Wine Quality and Education Manager at Vinventions (Link)
lead a WIN Expo session on the affect of closures, oxygen management, and how closures can be tailored to different wine styles and needs.
The tasting included three 2014 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons.
(Bonus tasting: a 5 year old Sauvignon Blanc, which was still fresh and bright!)
What happened? Attendees voted on their favorite wine of the three.
All three wines offered different color, flavor, and aroma profiles!
If your wine comes with a foil wrapper at the top, how do you know what kind of cork closure is used and how to lay your wine?
Closures are one more aspect to consider when looking for that bottle of Syrah or Fiano. While you may not be thinking corks vs. twist tops, every closure allows or blocks a certain
amount of transferable oxygen—which influences the flavor profiles of your wine.
From luxury winemakers to low-cost fast-rotation wines, each wine needs something different.
Just as each wine customer is looking for something different.
Here's to the right closures; so your wine can open up to its full potential and beauty!
For a look at Five Wine Trends for 2019...more
Dare to Pair 2019
Local Culinary, Hospitality, and Wine students offered an event
to rival the Bay Area food and wine scene.
The Cabrillo College students spent almost two months preparing for the Dare To Pair.
Small bites were beautifully plated.
Each dish presented its own flavor elements to pair with the wine students chose.
Food and wine were served under awnings, deep in the dark cellars, in tasting rooms,
and under the gorgeous Santa Cruz sun.
All of the wines were gifted by Surf City Vintners (Link).
A heartfelt “Thank you” to each winery who donated their wines for the D2P and to
the Cabrillo Culinary, Wine, and Hospitality Program throughout the year!
Cheers to you for supporting our local students and the wine and food industry.
A 'thank you' to Chef/Instructor Jeremy and Chef/Instructor Eric from Cabrillo College!
Guests enjoy the pairings and time together. Cathy Bentley, D2P's faithful coordinator!
#1 Host Winery, Equinox Winery
Team: Hannah S., Kim T., China P., and Elaina G.
Dish: “Provencal Pies.” These upscale artisan pot-pies offered flavors of lemon chicken, with roasted garlic, and a swirled topping of brown butter mashed potatoes.
Wine: 2001 Equinox Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Pairing Highlights: Honey, apricot, and yeast notes from the Champagne-method sparkling-wine perfectly accented the buttery-rosemary crust, the earthy carrots and poultry, fresh lemon, and decadent mashed potatoes. As one taster said, “Chicken and bubbles go well together.”
Destination: This dish took me to a farm-to-table dinner set in an apple orchard. Long, narrow farm tables are covered with white linens and jars of field flowers. Complete with hanging lights, and warm evening breezes.
#2 Sones Winery
Team: Natasha F., Jessie C., Alekzander M-N., and John B.
Dish: Hamachi crudo with fresh citrus, avocado, and leche de tigre sauce.
Wine: The“Hedgehog” is a blend of Torrantes and Sauvignon Blanc, California
Pairing Highlights: The fresh, almost floral white wine set the stage for this clean-flavored dish. The compilation was a soothing orchestration of 9 plating elements. An attractive color palate greeted the eye.
Destination: Appreciate this Californian-Asian inspired pairing in a metropolitan highrise—complete with a view of the city lights and night time stars.
#3 Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard
Team: Joseph R., Fatima D., Thomas G., and Jade B.
Dish: Sopes de Carnitas de Pato con Mole
Wine: 2015 Melange Rouge, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Pairing Highlights: Thick, rich, and full of balanced flavors, the subtle chili and chocolate of the Mole paired well with the earthy duck. The acidity of the pastoral Melange wine rounded out the dish, giving the pairing cohesion.
Destination: This is the dish to savor with friends during a midnight dinner tucked in a Spanish courtyard.
#4 Quinta Cruz Wines
Team: Conall M., Max G., Ismael A., and Julie P.
Dish: Manchego and Almond Stuffed Squid
Wine: 2016 Sauzao, Santa Cruz Mountains.
Pairing Highlights: Tasters enjoyed pan-seared squid stuffed with Manchego cheese, garlic, tomatoes, and almonds, atop arugula leaves. The browned squid, the subtle crunch of the almonds and notes of creamy cheese played off each other with an affinity.
Destination: Get your style on because this pairing would be perfect for a pop-up dinner at a home. Artists, musicians, writers, and food lovers would wax-on eloquently about this combination.
#5 Storrs Winery:
Team: Laura R., Alex A., Gabe A., and Damian F.
Dish: Bunuelos de Bacalao with Chili/Lime Aioli
Wine: 2017 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains
Pairing Highlights: The salinity of the fish fritters, the light but full flavored Chardonnay, and the peppery arugula were an enticing flavor trio. The chili mayo gave this dish a powerful punch.
Destination: This dish took me to a beach side cafe' on the Iberian Coast. The lapping water and salty sea air would add to this pairing.
#6 Bottle Jack Winery
Team: Sean A., Michael G., Sarah C., and Anita L.
Dish: Durham Ranch Braised Wild Boar with Porcini Polenta and Pickled Fennel
Wine: 2016 Firenze Tuscan Blend, Santa Clara County
Pairing Highlights: The alluring flavors of the wild boar and umami polenta tied the knot with the Firenze. The wine's dark cherry, acidic, earthy, and almost farmyard flavors guaranteed tasters would hold a fork in one hand, and a glass of wine in the other.
Destination: This dish will transport you to a hidden French bistro. The type of place where the locals eat, and tourist hope to get reservations.
#7 Silver Mountain Vineyards
Team: Susan C., Erin D., Natalie B., and Wednesday H.
Dish: Grilled Ostrich Sausage with Potato Croquette and a Red Wine Gastrique
Wine: 2012 Oscar's Wild Red blend, Santa Cruz Mountains
Pairing Highlights: Simply put, if this team decides to market and sell their sausage, I'll be their first customer. The balanced flavors of herbs, hints of dried cherries, and Manchego cheese give a bit of richness to the lean sausage. Starchy potato and fresh greens round out this dish, while the Merlot in the wine-blend offers soft tannins and dark berry flavors.
Destination: Picture yourself siting on the dining-deck of a snow-capped mountain resort. The blue sky, warm sun, and fresh air will whet your appetite for this arresting dish.
#8 Bartolo Wines
Team: Konrad S., Fajah J., and Jennifer P.
Dish: Braised Pork Belly with Green Garlic Puree, Cauliflower and Herb Sauteed Fava Beans.
Wine: 2013 Grenache, Santa Clara Valley
Pairing Highlights: This pairing is full of striking contrasts. The rich, smokey flavors of the pork belly. The green, grassy flavors of the garlic. The cruciferous, fresh cauliflower and fava beans. All these tastes met up with the rich, yet smooth, Grenache.
Destination: Tuck into this pairing while at an Eastern European restaurant. From your seat, you can see the chef in the kitchen cooking and braising the pork belly. Outside are views of presidential palaces.
The 10th Annual D2P Awards....
Favorite Wine: 2001 Equinox Sparkling Blanc de Blanc, Santa Cruz Mountains
Favorite Dish: Wild Boar
People's Choice Awards for the Best Wine & Food Pairing (guest polls)
1st Sones Cellars and Hamachi crudo
2nd Bottle Jack Wines and Wild Boar
3rd Bortollo Wines and Braised Pork Belly
The Judges Awards for the Best Wine & Food Pairing
1st Bottle Jack Wines and Wild Boar
2nd Bortollo Wines and Braised Pork Belly
3rd Sones Cellars and Hamachi crudo
Professional and hospitable, the students' dishes were noteworthy!
As one taster shared, “the Culinary programs of our colleges need our support.”
To donate to the Cabrillo College Culinary, Hospitality and Wine Program,
or to dine at the student-run Pinot Alto Restaurant, visit (Link.)
Until next year's D2P,
For a behind the scences look at D2P and its origins, visit my post....
If you have one afternoon for wine tasting in the Santa Clara Valley, put Blended Winemaker's Studio at the top of your list. Most people don't have nearly as much time as they'd like for friends, to relax and be refreshed, or to engage in hobbies. Wine tasting in no exception. It's a let down when I visit a winery and find it's more about the setting and the wine is lacking.
Blended is a collaboration of three boutique wineries, and here, it's all about the wine and the hospitality. One tasting room hosts wines from three very different, but three very passionate, winemakers.
The beauty of boutique wineries is that often the owners/winemakers are on site and love to talk about their wines. The day of my visit, all three Blended winemakers poured, served, and chatted about their wines. Visit the Blended Studios site for current tasting room hours and wine selection at: http://blendedwinestudio.com/
La vie Dansante
Jeff from La vie Dansante envisioned opening a wine studio in a co-op setting.
While autonomy is valued in America, collaboration has its advantages. Jeff wanted the wine co-op to be a place to share the tasting room space, equipment, labor, knowledge, the lease, and troubles. Elbow to elbow in the tasting room (literally) the Blended team welcomes wine fans.
Additionally, making wine has its challenges. Behind the scenes, they can offer support and problem solve together.
Jeff and Leanne have a multi year lease on the property. Many people look to see what they can get out of a situation. Conversely, Jeff and Leanne are focusing on what they can contribute. From the first conversation with the land owners in 2014 to today, each year Jeff and Leanne add something along the way. They turned the property's old barn into an insulated winemaking facility. Later, the tasting room was built. They like to demonstrate progress to their wine club members.
Medeiros Family Wines
Winemakers will go far if they know their grapes and they know their customers. Ted and Tammi Medeiros have a good sense of what their tasters want. They also mindfully nurture their wines from the grape to the glass.
Ted shared, “With so many (tasting rooms) opening up, tasters can pick and choose." There's been a change from the last 10 years. ”Newer tasters have a new goal--and that's more socializing." Wine fans are meeting at wineries to buy a glass or bottle, sit, and enjoy an outing or experience together.
Ted mentioned new wine-tasters “are looking for wines and wineries that are the diamond in the rough.” The Santa Clara Valley is an ideal place, in that many of the wineries are small and personal. “Winemakers can pour, serve, and chat.” It affords guests a chance to enjoy talking to the winemakers.
With the proud, glowing eyes of a parent, Ted showed me pictures of his vineyards and the fruit he manages. His Malbec is one cluster per cane. Ted can limit the size of the berries (grapes.) “Timing is critical; when to prune, when to cut back.”
More grapes per cluster, or bigger grapes don't equal better wine. It means a larger volume of juice (wine) but not better quality. He controls the quality of the grapes by growing and tending vineyards from 12 sites in the Morgan Hill—Gilroy area.
Community focused, Tammi shared how Medeiros Family Wines pour at regional wine festivals and events. Programs, like the Passport, “Are good for the community. It encourages people to discover their community.” Tammi also focuses on the tasting room and guest experience.
Medeiros Family Wines are relatively new to the Santa Clara Valley. After a few years in wine, Ted and Tammi began offering wines under their family label in 2012. “There's Old World longevity in the valley,” said Ted. “I hope to be that successful.”
I think they're on to something. Meticulous attention to fruit and knowing one's guests is core. Couple that with respecting the historic wineries of the valley, while forging their own path, the Medeiros family is poised for what's ahead in wine.
TASS Vineyards and Winery
Owners/winemakers Ron & Lynn Mosley produce TASS wines. Tradition. Art. Science. Style.
Ron's managed over 80 small vineyards in the Santa Clara Valley. As a vineyard manager, he's cleared acreage, planted vineyards, produced wine, and crafted wines for personal clients. His approach to wine is three fold. First is wine growing. Next comes winemaking by small lot production. Lastly, the wines reach tasters via marketing and direct sales.
Ron creates wines from Santa Clara Valley grapes. Since he also produces wines from a variety of vineyards for numerous owners, he also offers wines from other California regions. Ron commented that “Wine making is 90% ingredients.” He's given the right ingredients, now, as he says “Don't mess it up!”
Zigzagging through the vineyards, Ron often randomly reaches and grabs berries (grapes) off the clusters. He'll pick 50-60 berries off of 50-60 vines.
Walking between the vines, he purposefully tries not to look at the fruit, but collects samples. Why? It's natural to want to pick the best, choice fruit and check it for flavor and ripeness. But Ron figures it's better to have a read on what the cluster is producing—some ready to pick, some needing more time.
Next, he combines the samples into a plastic bag, smashes the grapes, and checks the flavors. He tastes the combined grapes. He also uses a refractometer, a tool that measures the brix (grape sugars) in the grape pulp. This two-fold check combines the benefits of senses and science.
Ron shared,“Don't stress the vines. Let them live up to their potential.” He can evaluate each year, taking into consideration the weather, the vineyards, and the fruit. From there, he can “hold back or release the vineyard to balance it out.”
And speaking of balancing, Lynn's sharp eye for good color in wines, along with her attuned sense of smell, has influenced Ron's winemaking. Ron shared how women can often pick up essence, acids, and aromas in wines.
There is a mix of horticulturist, scientist, and tease in Ron. He has a way of keeping the tasting room lively, yet he's is very down to earth. One minute he's pouring wine, the next he's outside chatting with tasters and answering their questions.
Picture making a salad with a commercial, mass market, under ripe tomato vs. a fresh, red, flavorful tomato from a local farmer. It's easy to see the difference in quality, taste, and results.
This is similar with grapes. Ron highlights the virtues of knowing the quality of the
grapes with guests who are captivated and eager to understand wine.
This collaborative effort--three tasting rooms in one location--works!
Jeff is pouring his wines and keeping an eye on the big picture of the property.
Ted is showing pictures of his healthy vineyards.
So give yourself some time to linger and taste one or all three lines of wine.
Cheers to your Gilroy wine jaunt!
For more Santa Clara Valley tasting rooms, visit my Santa Clara Wineries page.
Join me at California Wine